Ayurveda Treatment Methods

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Asava And Arishta – Advantages, Usage In Children, Side Effects


Asava and Arishta are very important dosage forms of Ayurveda. They contain naturally generated alcohol. This alcohol acts as the medium for active ingredients of the herbs to dissolve in it. In general, all Asava and Arishta have 5 – 10 % of alcohol. Though these Ayurvedic medicines contain alcohol, they are quite safe to prescribe and to consume. 

General method of preparation of Arishta –
Usually in Arishta manufacturing, (like Ashwagandharishtam),

First Kashaya is prepared by boiling herbs in water and filtered.
To this Kashayam, specified amounts of jaggery (guda) / sugar candy /  honey is added. Mixed well and then filtered again.
To this, fermenting agent – Dhataki flower (Woodfordia fruticosa) or Madhuka flower (Madhuca indica) is added.
To this, Prakshepa Dravya – certain spices like pepper, long pepper, clove, cinnamon etc are added.
This is taken in a vessel, kept closed under heap of husk / hay/ any place where temperature is around 35 degree celsius.
It is kept for fermentation for 15 – 45 days, as per the specific formula.
During this time, the sucrose in jaggery / sugar candy gets converted into alcohol with the help of fermenting agents.
While the natural alcohol production takes place, the water soluble active principles in the Kashaya and the spices get dissolved in the alcohol medium.
After the said period, it is taken out of the vessel and stored in bottles for dispensing.
In many cases, remnant portion of previous arishta is used as the seed to induce fermentation. (called as Sura beeja – mother yeast).

Examples of Arishta –
Dasamoolarishtam – 
used in treating cold, cough, anemia, after delivery care of mother, female infertility, etc.

Draksharishtam – used in cold, cough, asthma, throat infection, intestinal disorders.
Saraswatarishtam – used to improve memory, concentration, immunity. Also acts as cardiac tonic.
Amritarista – used in treating fever
Arjunarishta – used in cardiac disorders, cold, cough etc.
Ashokarishta – used in heavy periods, fever, bleeding disorders, bleeding hemorrhoids etc.

Manufacturing of Asava –
Usually, herbs are mixed with required amount of water.  This is taken in place of Kashayam (here, kashayam is not prepared, but there are a few exceptions).

Rest of the procedure is same as above.

Examples of Asava –
Lohasavam – 
used in  anemia, malabsorption syndrome, IBS, anroexia etc.

Ushirasav – used in bleeding disorders, anemia, Urinary tract disorders, intestinal worms etc

Are these medicines, containing alcohol safe?
These medicines contain self generated alcohol, which dissolves active principles of herbs and spices in it. Hence it is quite safe to use in therapeutics.

Without any hesitation, since 5000 years, these medicines are used in Ayurvedic treatments.

Dose of Asava and Arishta –
Whenever safety of a medicine is discussed, it is always in relation with the dose. Hence administration in proper dosage is very essential. Classical dose of Asava and Arishta are – 48 – 96 ml. Approximately 50 – 100 ml, in divided dose, per day.

In very weak patients, it can be diluted with equal amount of water, before administration.

Safety of usage of Asavam and Arishtam in Children –
In proper dose, if the disease requires it, then these medicines can be used even in an year old kid. Usually, Aravaindasava, Draskhasava and Pippalyasavam are quite commonly used in pediatric conditions.

As per Dr MS Krishnamurthy,
For an infant of 6 months upto 1 year of age – just 2 – 3 ml, after diluting with equal / double quantities of water.
For one year old kid, dose is usually 4 – 5 ml, after diluting with equal / double quantities of water.
For kids of 5 – 6 years, dose is 10 ml, with dilution
So, with proper judgement and in proper dose, even Asava and Arishta medicines can be used in children.

Probable side effects of Asav and Arisht in children –
Children are very tender, many of the organs are not developed and functional to full strength. Hence, in some individuals, usage of these type of Ayurvedic medicine might cause some irritation and side effects.

Gastric irritation and increased warmth, feeling feverish are the two common side effects, if administered in a high dose.
Hence in children, it is best to give a test dose first. After confirming absence of any side effects, medicines can be continued.

Apart from consideration of dose, strength of medicine should also be considered before prescribing. For example, Kutajarishta, used in treating diarrhea associated with fever, may cause constipation in some children. In such circumstances, it makes sense to choose   Mustakarishta, which is milder in action, though both have same disease indications.

Advantanges of Asava and Arishta medicines –
A. Shelf life – – 
Shelf life of Asava and Arishta is upto 10 years. (related – expiry dates of Ayurvedic medicines) While other Ayurvedic medicine forms like Kashayam, tablets etc cannot be stored for very long, Asava and Arishta have considerably very high shelf life.

पुराणा: स्यु: गुणैर्युक्ता आसवा धातवो रसा: ॥ – शार्ंगधर सम्हिता पूर्वखण्ड
purāṇā: syu: guṇairyuktā āsavā dhātavo rasā: || – śārṃgadhara samhitā pūrvakhaṇḍa

This is the verse explaining that Asava and Arishta have very long shelf life. Often this verse is confused as – older the Asava / Arishta, the better. The potency increases with age. But it is not true. Potency is retained at maximum levels, till a long period of time.

  1. Best taste – Asava and Arishta are the best tasting Ayurvedic medicines. Avalehas (herbal jams like chyawanaprash) are also equally good to taste. But dose fixation is quite difficult in case of Avalehas, compared with Asava and Arishta.
  2. Transportation – If they are prepared properly, they do not get spoilt / contaminated during transportation. Such as spoilage may happen in case of Kashayam (water decoction), Churna (herbal powders) etc.
  3. Appreciation – Because of color, consistency, aroma and taste, they are highly appreciated by the patients.

Disadvantages of Asava and Arishta –
In children, we cannot use it in higher dose and much precautions are required.

Some women patients might not like these medicines because of alcohol content. Especially, in menopausal age, with use of Asava and Arishta, some women may feel increase in hot flashes, perspiration,
Some elder patients may also feel increased warmth in the body, gastric irritation, hair fall, constipation etc.

Manufacturing precautions to be taken –
Some use yeast to induce fermentation and some use steel or plastic containers as fermentation vessel. This is not as per Ayurvedic principle. Ayurveda has explained Madhuka / Dhataki flowers as fermenting agent. Ayurveda recommends usage of chemically inert containers such as earthen pots, wooden vessels, porcelain jars, etc for the purpose of fermentation.

Can Asava and Arishta be called as Herbal wines?
For example, Drakshasava / Draksharishta – which is prepared with dry grapes, cannot be equated to grape wine. The method of preparation, purpose are quite different.

With Asava and Arishta – they are prepared with many herbal ingredients, some of them are used for preparing kashaya and some are used as Prakshepa (spices), which act as bio-enhancers.
Unlike in wine preparation, here, fermentation initiators like yeast, or fermentation inhibitors (added at the end), are not used in Asava and Arishtas. The spices added themselves act as fermentation moderators. So, commercial alcohol preparations cannot be compared with Asava and Arishta.


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Useful Links

Medicinal plants of India ; Ayurveda

Encyclopedia of Indian Medicinal Plants/Herbs mainly using in Ayurveda with good quality pictures and information like therapeutic usage of Medicinal Plants, cultivation, morphology, habitat, flower characters, Chemical content, parts used, research works etc.